Most of us will live, die and promptly be forgotten. But a chosen few manage to supersede our inherent mediocrity to achieve immortality. These aren’t always good people, not always people we like. But we’ll never forget their names.
Like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
In the newly rechristened Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre’s version of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus (also the basis for the wildly popular 1984 film of the same name), our protagonist is not Mozart. It’s Antonio Salieri (John Michael Goodson), the Italian composer to the glittering Viennese court at the end of the 18th century.
Salieri longs to serve God, to glorify Him through his music and piety and good works. But all that crumbles away when he meets Mozart (Jeremy Allen Brimm). All of Salieri’s sacrifice and toil mean nothing in the face of the overwhelming talent of the disgusting man-child prodigy. So Salieri sets out to destroy Mozart–mind, body and soul.
It’s a simple story of envy, coming to terms with one’s own limitations and revenge, but it’s brilliantly told. The story relies heavily on Goodson’s Salieri, and he does a tremendous job. He’s on stage for nearly every moment of the show, both as a withered old man (with a spectacularly bad wig), then as the young and vital composer. He stalks through every scene with malevolent, heartfelt glee, purring with satisfaction at his every victory against Mozart and and raging at God for choosing such an imperfect vessel for His avatar with great finesse. Goodson, quite simply, makes the show.
But the supporting cast does an excellent job as well: Brimm’s Mozart is disgusting and bawdy, as he’s meant to be, Mikayla Anne Reed is charming as Mozart’s wife, Constanze. And the two “Venticelli,” (Clay Mabbitt and John O’Brien) Salieri’s gossip mongers, are endlessly amusing. But the best supporting player is the music. Clips from some of Mozart’s best pieces are incorporated into the play, from the playful joy of the Marriage of Figaro to the bombastic terror of Don Giovanni to the somber strains of the Requiem, we’re never allowed to forget just how extraordinary this flawed man was.
The stage design is lovely and the costume design is even better, with sumptuous gowns and embroider waistcoats abounding. The Civic has found a really wonderful new home in the plush Booth Tarkington Theatre at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel–it’s brand new and beautiful.
Amadeus is a wonder. It’s by turns hilarious, deeply touching and thought-provoking. And the next time you find yourself envying your more talented colleagues, remember you can always ask for absolution from that patron saint of mediocrity Salieri.
Amadeus is playing at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre located at the Center for the Performing Arts through November 12. Tickets are available at civictheatre.org. Reviewer’s tickets were provided courtesy of the Civic Theatre.